As Theresa May has announced her departure as the Conservative Party leader and prime minister in a tearful statement on Friday, the U.K.’s new leader is expected to be chosen in a few weeks.
The contest to hold the top government office as the new Tory leader will start in the week commencing on June 10 following a state visit from U.S. President Donald Trump and the D-Day commemoration services early next month.
But who is going to be the new prime minister will certainly shape the U.K.’s next steps in Brexit.
In the week leading to May’s resignation, some names to compete for leadership have already come up.
Former Foreign Secretary and former London mayor Boris Johnson, former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington, former House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, former cabinet minister Michael Gove, Defence Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Home Secretary Sajid Javid are among the candidates but the number of those in the leadership race will narrow down in coming weeks.
No matter who will be inaugurated as the new prime minister of the country, he or she will find a complex and humongous task of delivering Brexit and face calls for a general election from the opposition.
The U.K. has been granted an extension to Brexit date until Oct. 31 on the request of May.
This date could have been brought forward should the Brexit deal would have been approved by the parliament -- a task proved itself as impossible in Theresa May’s case due to divisions not only in the House of Commons in general but also within her Tory MPs.
Staunch Brexiteers Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Andrea Leadsom have already indicated that they were ready to take the country out of the EU without a deal on the terms of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid have not ruled out a no-deal Brexit either.
However, among the other candidates, there are Michael Gove, Rory Stewart and Amber Rudd who are against leaving the bloc without a deal.
- What went wrong for May?
The outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May had to face many other problems alongside the huge Brexit delivery task.
They included national security in the wake of London and Manchester terror attacks, the Salisbury chemical weapon incident, the huge Grenfell fire disaster that killed dozens of people, social injustice due to austerity measures and cut benefits, declining police numbers, unhappy education and health staff and alleged Islamophobia within her party.
But her first eyebrow-raising mistake was losing the parliamentary majority after calling a snap election in June 2017. Her Conservative Party came out of the political race by losing seats and in need of a “supply and confidence” deal with Northern Ireland’s unionists to form a minority government.
Disgruntled voices from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as from the opposition parties in the House of Commons dominated a large part of U.K.-EU exit negotiations as May preferred to keep her cards close to her chest and she was often accused of not being transparent and not respecting views across the House of Commons.
She received the most humiliating defeat when she brought the negotiated Brexit deal for a vote in January as MPs voted by 432 votes to 202 to reject the deal. Her two future attempts to pass the deal through the parliament also failed.
As the votes of the Tories have continued to decline, May was the only name to be accused after not doing well in local elections held earlier this month.
Despite her most spelt out statement that “Brexit means Brexit”, May was accused by hard core Brexiteers for not taking necessary and required steps, including leaving the bloc without a deal to deliver the referendum result.
Her leadership was challenged twice, one by her party and one in the House of Commons, but she managed to survive the both votes.
However, May’s reign as the Brexit queen, came to a “tearful” end after she attempted to bring her repeatedly defeated Brexit deal back to the parliament with a few twists, including a possibility of a confirmatory referendum on the deal and extremely angered the members of her party.
The deal was quickly and categorically rejected by almost all sides of the House of Commons and by her own Brexiteer Tory MPs.
She will welcome the U.S. President Donald Trump, who will arrive on three-day state visit to the U.K. on June 3.
May is expected to remain as the interim premier until the new leader is sworn in.
By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal in London